Resorts World celebrates first year


| tcullen@queenscourier.com |

COURIER FILE PHOTO/Photo by Steve Mosco
COURIER FILE PHOTO/Photo by Steve Mosco

As Resorts World Casino New York City celebrates a year since opening its doors, the Racino has already reached a number of milestones and continues to grow.

A wager on a South Ozone Park casino a year ago turned out to be a good bet for jobs, and for all of Queens.

A year after Resorts World Casino New York City opened its doors, there has been a lot to talk about. In that time, the Racino has seen millions go in and out, several boxing matches and concerts, and even a robbery.

“Resorts World Casino has been an incredible success overall for Queens, for New York City and also the state as a whole,” said Resorts World president Michael Speller.

The Racino has sent more than $410 million in tax revenue back to the state toward education, the racing industry and other state-run programs. The casino, and parent company Genting, is committed to giving back to the community and the state where it’s found a home, Speller said.

“Clearly [it is] a great outcome for education; a great outcome to the state,” he said, adding that of the tax revenue sent back, roughly $263 million, was earmarked for education. “It’s been a great experience. We’ve been accepted by the community, we’ve worked hard with the community and it’s been a great experience over the last year.”

More than a million people walked through the Racino’s doors in July, two months after Genting announced Resorts World had beaten out Atlantic City and Las Vegas for slot machine revenue.

In June, however, a man later identified by the Queens District Attorney’s office as Kevin Lides, entered the second floor and handed a note to a teller. Lides was able to make off with about $63,000, but was caught just a month later in northwest Pennsylvania — in part from the surveillance system at Resorts World and collaboration with the 106th Precinct.

Speller said the casino’s security staff has worked closely with the 106th since inception and the working relationship continues daily.

The future of Resorts World has even crossed in to the hotly contested Senate District 15 election. Both incumbent Senator Joseph Addabbo and Councilmember Eric Ulrich said at a recent debate they believe in full gaming at all of New York’s seven racetrack casinos. At the same time, Addabbo said he hoped as the number of jobs at the Racino increases, the number of Queens-based employees there should as well. Ulrich said if gaming laws in the state were to expand, Resorts World must continue to be a responsible neighbor.

Resorts World currently employs just over 1,750 people, Speller said, about 1,100 of whom live in Queens. Executives promised last year that 70 percent of its employees would be based in Queens, though that was based on a projected 850 employees.

“Creating jobs is a big focus for everybody,” Speller said. “Obviously we continue to work on that. It’s a commitment that is not a one-time commitment. We continue to do whatever we can to improve on that.”

Throughout the entire growth of Resorts World, the community has been involved.

Liaisons from Resorts World attend the monthly Community Board 10 meetings, and executives meet with the board once a month to hear community feedback, Speller said.

“So it’s been a very collaborative and successful relationship between us and CB 10,” he said. “They tell us what the things are we need to be looking at and we respond to that.”

Board chair Elizabeth Braton likewise said Resorts World has lived up to all of its commitments to the surrounding neighborhoods, and had been responsive with any issues or comments.

“Their community relations are excellent,” she said. “They have ensured they have had a person available to just about any organization in the area to attend their meetings, and listen to people’s concerns and answer questions.”

But aside from enhanced gaming, which Speller says could find a home on the Racino’s open third floor, there is still more development on the horizon. Talks between the state and Genting for what would have been the nation’s largest convention center broke down in June, leaving plans at a standstill and sending developers back to the drawing board. Talks for a convention center, or other development at Aqueduct, would be held off until 2013, when voters will decide on proposed gaming law changes.

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder, a proponent of Resorts World and more jobs and business in the region, said plans for Aqueduct were not done yet. In order to help south Queens continue to grow as a destination in the borough, Goldfeder said the state needed to give Resorts World and Genting the tools it needed to grow, particularly full gaming and better, faster transportation.